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Utilization of Acupuncture Services in the Emergency Department Setting: A Quality Improvement Study
Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews
  • John R Burns, Aurora Health Care
  • Jessica J. F. Kram, Center for Urban Population Health; Aurora Health Care
  • Vashir Xiong, Aurora Health Care
  • Jeanne M Stark Casadont, Aurora Health Care
  • Tiffany A Mullen, Aurora Health Care
  • Nancy Conway, Aurora Health Care
  • Dennis J Baumgardner, Aurora Health Care; University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Publication Date
  • acupuncture,
  • acute pain,
  • emergency department,
  • nonpharmacological treatment,
  • quality improvement

Purpose: Patients often present to the emergency department (ED) for pain. As opioid fatalities rise, alternative treatments are warranted for pain management. Acupuncture, a nonpharmacological treatment involving the insertion of needles into skin or tissue at specific points within the body, may help to decrease acute pain. Our study aimed to assess the utilization and impact of acupuncture in the ED for acute pain management.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of purposefully collected quality improvement data. Patients who were ≥18 years old and who presented to the ED at an urban medical center in Wisconsin during 2017 were offered acupuncture services based on their emergency severity index (ESI; range: highest severity [1] – lowest severity [5]), reason for visit, and physician approval. Paired t-tests were used to examine mean differences between pre- and post-acupuncture pain, stress, anxiety, and nausea scores (range: none [0] – worst [10]). Multivariable regression models also were constructed.

Results: A total of 379 patients received acupuncture. Patients presented predominately with an ESI score of 3 (68.9%) or 4 (24.8%); 46.4% received opioids in the ED. Mean pre- and post-acupuncture pain scores significantly differed (6.5 vs 3.4; P < 0.001); receiving opioids during the ED visit was not associated with improved pain scores (P = 0.948). Stress (5.7 vs 1.9), anxiety (4.8 vs 1.6), and nausea (1.6 vs 0.6) scores also improved (P < 0.001) following acupuncture.

Conclusions: Emergency department acupuncture significantly decreased pain, stress, anxiety, and nausea. Our findings support a larger randomized controlled trial to further assesses the impact of acupuncture for acute pain in other ED settings.

Citation Information

Burns JR, Kram JJ, Xiong V, Stark Casadont JM, Mullen TA, Conway N, Baumgardner DJ. Utilization of acupuncture services in the emergency department setting: a quality improvement study. J Patient Cent Res Rev. 2019;6:172-8. 10.17294/2330-0698.1688